How to Catch A Queen Ant
How to Catch a Queen Ant
Finding a queen ant is the first step to building your very own ant farm. Queen ants can be quite elusive, but if you know what you’re looking for and how to look, then you can catch your own queen ant with some time and patience.
Waiting for a Queen Ant to Start a New Colony
Contact an expert about the best time.Queen ants in existing colonies will venture off to start new colonies during certain times of the year.Local entomologists (people who study insects) or even local pest control companies will likely know the best time of year for you to search for a queen ant venturing off to build a new colony.
- Day length, temperature, and rainfall are just a few of the variables to take into consideration for your area regarding when a queen will do this. For dryer areas such as the Southwest, it will usually be in the springtime, whereas later summer monsoons may be the ideal time in other regions.
Find an area with several active ant colonies.The more ant colonies you check during the correct window of opportunity, the more likely you will be to find a queen ant during her search. A queen is also likely to try to build a colony in an area where other ant colonies already thrive, so look for spots in undeveloped areas with several colonies within a short distance of one another.
Look for a queen ant.Queen ants and the males that mate with them don’t simply fly out of the mature colony entrance knowing where to go. During the correct window, you might see several queen ants walking around near the entrance to their parent colony. During this period, the queen ants are testing the weather to decide on the right time to start a new colony.
- Since you're looking for a queen ant, you should know how to differentiate them from the other ants in the colony. At this stage, the queen ant will have wings. However, even after the stage where she pulls off her wings, you can identify her by her much larger size compared to the other ants. This will be most prominent in the thorax, which is the middle section of the ant between the head and the abdomen of the ant. You can also find additional characteristics provided at: How to Identify a Queen Ant
- If you simply want a queen ant, this is the ideal time to cup one; however, if you want a queen ant in order to start your own ant colony, then you shouldn’t do it yet. These still winged queen ants have not yet mated in this step of colony building.
Wait until you see a queen ant wandering around erratically.Once a queen mates, she will look for the new colony location. In contrast to the fairly oriented paths of most ants, the queen ant will wander around checking cracks and crevices, changing directions, and generally resembling a lost tourist in a big city.Her erratic behavior simply means she’s looking for the ideal spot to begin her new colony.
- Another sign that a queen ant has already mated is when she has pulled off her wings.Once she picks a general area, she will pull off her wings in order to appear less conspicuous. She will still walk around trying to find the perfect location in her chosen area, though.
Handle your new queen ant with care.Once she has pulled off her wings, it’s much easier to catch a queen ant, but make sure you handle her gently. If you want to transport your queen ant to make a personal ant farm, a film canister works well. Make sure she gets plenty of water by placing a damp cotton ball inside the canister as well.
- If you want to build an ant farm, you should also take several scoops of soil from the area where you caught the queen for her to begin nesting in once you have transported her.
Digging to Find a Queen Ant
Use a spade to cut a trench around the ant colony.This method will require more work but less expert timing. Begin by using a spade to cut a 6-8” radius trench around the entrance of the ant hill.
Use a large spade to dig out the colony.Once you finish creating the trench, start shoveling out the area inside the trench, which will be comprised of the majority of the ant colony.
Shovel the soil into five-gallon buckets.You will need to dig up quite a bit of ground to reach all the various chambers of the colony, so keep two five-gallon buckets on hand and shovel the soil into them.
- Try to keep the clumps of earth as intact as possible so as not to collapse every tunnel as you dig the colony out.
- You also want to make sure that you cover each bucket as you will it to stop any queens from potentially escaping.
- If you use this method on a brand new colony where the queen has just mated and is still digging out her nest, then you won’t have to dig very far, and you won’t have much to sift through to find her.Telltale signs for this type of brand new colony include a very small entrance hole with a small heap of fresh dirt beside it that hasn’t yet been formed into a mound.
Follow chambers and tunnels where possible.They can be hard to identify while working quickly, but you should especially follow chambers and tunnels in the soil as you dig out the colony. Keep collecting samples until you see very few ants left in the hole.
Sort through the buckets.Once you have collected the colony, you will have to sort through the buckets manually to find the queen. Use a spoon to sift through the dirt and separate ants.
- You may want to transfer the ants into smaller jars as you separate them and the soil.
- For obvious reasons, you probably don’t want to do this inside your house.
Locate the queen.It will be a painstaking process, but you should eventually locate the queen as you go through the colony. If you are unsure of what exactly you are looking for, the queen will be the largest ant in the colony, and her middle section--the thorax--will be especially pronounced. You can consult How to Identify a Queen Ant for more assistance.
QuestionI found a queen just getting ready for the nuptial flight. I caught her, and I have left her in a container with no soil in it for 8 days in the dark (8 days have not been completed yet). Will this work?Flailing DuckCommunity AnswerBecause you caught her before she had a chance to fly and find a mate, she will not be fertile.Thanks!
QuestionHow many eggs do queen ants lay one year?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the type of ant. Some average thousands of eggs per day, which adds up to millions over their lifetime.Thanks!
QuestionI have ants that live under the leaves in my fairy garden. Could there be a queen there?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf your garden has a pile, there could be a queen ant under the pile. So most likely, yes.Thanks!
QuestionCan a winged queen make a colony also?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIn certain cases, yes. Some queen ants are able to produce larvae even though they still have their wings. Queens that don't have wings can be infertle, though, so don't always assume they can produce larvae just because they have no wings.Thanks!
QuestionDo queen ants wander off to find nesting areas during hot days, like in the summer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the species. Each species has nuptial flights during certain months of the year, and many fly during the summer months. Queens will often fly after a rainstorm, so be sure to look around if its rained recently to improve your chances.Thanks!
QuestionCan queen ants be found in plant pots?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Queen ants prefer a moist and dark home and will look in and under certain areas.Thanks!
QuestionCan/do males and queens from the same colony mate? Can I catch males and queens from the same colony and house them together until their nuptials and have fertilized queens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerExcept for special cases, queens and males will not mate together if they are from the same colony. In addition, even if they are from different colonies, it is very rare that ants will mate in captivity.Thanks!
QuestionCan other ants from different colony kill the queen?Nevaeh MilhollinCommunity AnswerYes, but it's not likely they will get to the queen. The worker ants will die protecting her and she will start a new colony.Thanks!
QuestionWhere is the best place to find a queen ant in the spring/summer?oliver williamsCommunity AnswerLook in areas where there are multiple ant colonies nearby. In urban areas, queen ants can be easy to spotted on pavement or on buildings.Thanks!
QuestionCan I put three queen ants in the same container?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou could if they were in the same colony before they were queens.Thanks!
To catch a queen ant, start by using a spade to dig a 6-inch wide circular trench around the entrance to an ant hill. Next, dig out all the soil containing the ant hill, and put it in large buckets. Then, sort through the buckets of soil using a spoon and remove any regular ants that you find. As you sift through the soil, look for a large ant with a pronounced middle section to identify the queen.
- Wear gloves when digging for ants.
- Don't be disappointed, it is hard to get a queen ant.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts when digging.
- Don't hurt your back when digging hunched-over. Try to keep your back as straight as possible.
- Wear boots to avoid getting ants under your clothes.
- Though it may not be as exciting as catching a queen ant, you can also purchase queen ants to start your own ant farm.
- Be careful that it is not a red ant colony, red ants' bites sting.(Red ants also known as fire ants leave a painful welt)
- The best time to look for Queen ants is during their nuptial flights. To find out when the nuptial flights occur, look up AntsCanada for more tips.
- You can catch a whole colony and place it in a jar or formicarium but make sure you catch their queen so your colony will live longer.
- Don't dig too fast or it could hurt the queen.
- Bring a black light to attract a queen.
- Some people are allergic to red ants so handle with care.
- Never mix two colonies together, they will fight until only one colony is left.
Sources and Citations
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